Entering primary school can be traumatic to some children. Fiona Walker, principal director of Julia Gabriel Centre & Chiltern House has the solution.
Parents often make the mistake of over-focusing on academic development rather than ensuring that their child is quipped with the vital social skills, such as confidence and independence.
The best thing you can do for your child as they prepare for the next step in their education is to be positive and available for them emotionally. If your child sets off from a safe, secure and constant environment, where they know they’re loved and supported, any major new experience will seem less daunting.
Here are practical steps to prep your child:
1. Tell Them To Believe In Themselves
Confidence is one of the most important qualities your child can take with her as she enters primary school, and something you can establish from the earliest age. If your child has a strong belief in her own ability when faced with new situations, they are more likely to take the transition to primary school in her stride. Positive experiences will provide the foundations for a healthy self-esteem.
2. Establish Healthy Routines
From the first moment your child steps into her new school, she will be required to follow instructions and numerous routines without constant prompting. Children who struggle to function independently often find primary school more challenging. So, establish routines at home in the weeks leading up to the first day of school. For example, a bedtime routine at a strict timing and getting up at a specific time early in the morning for a good breakfast.
3. Involve Them
Give your child hands-on opportunities in all the necessary preparations for school, such as buying school books, stationery and uniforms. This can create a sense of excitement. Practise packing and unpacking your child’s school bag together and then let her do this on her own. Let her practice dressing up on her own, and remember to praise her along the way.
4. Talk To Her About School
Spending time talking to your child about her new school is probably one of the most valuable exercises you can do. Talk about buying food from the canteen or stationery from the shop; what to do if she’s unsure or feel lost; how to ask for directions; who to go to for help. If her kindergarten had previously arranged a tour to the “big school”, discuss with her how it made her feel. And talk about your own experience of school: what you enjoyed learning; who’s your favourite teacher; how you made new friends. You can also read storybooks about starting school to help your child understand that she’s not alone in this.
5. Help Them Stay Positive
Remember that all children are different. Some children are slow to open up and express themselves in new situations. If yours is one of them, assure and reassure them that they will settle in soon. Concentrate on all the positives of entering into a new experience. Some children may become over stimulated by the new environment so be sure she gets some quiet time to unwind after school.
6. Listen To Them
Primary school can be overwhelming for even the most confidant kids, especially when there are lots of people literally bigger than them. So, reassure them. Tell them that everything they’re experiencing is normal. Playing and chatting to older role models (siblings or cousins) can help dispel anxiety and provide kids with opportunities to look forward to. Children may become tired more quickly as they learn to cope with the demands of school life. So remember to allow them plenty of wind down time at home. They may be reluctant to attend school after a while, and may develop stomachaches. Understand that this is all part of your child’s adjustment process. Most importantly, keep talking to them, reassuring them, and let them know that you are there to support them come what may.
Text by Fiona Walker